An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Longboat Key looks to combat north-end erosion

Longboat Key is considering emergency beach renourishment for the north end of the island, an erosion-prone area that’s experienced increased deterioration since Hurricane Irma, according to Public Works officials.

Sand on the beach north of Broadway Street has disappeared at an accelerated rate as a result of a high “intensity” of storms and tides since waves and tides connected with the hurricane hit Sept. 10, said Public Works Project Manager James Linkogle.

Linkogle said he visits the north end of the beach at least every other week to take pictures, taking note of the rate of erosion near two groins at the end of North Shore Road. Those groins, which were installed with sand fill in 2015, were designed and constructed to keep sand from being washed off the north-shore beach.

Climate change consequences are catastrophic, speakers at Sarasota event warn

SARASOTA — Climate change is the single greatest crisis humanity has ever faced, an alarming assertion made Tuesday by Los Angeles-based investigative journalist Dick Russell to a crowd of more than 100 at the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium.

Russell, who wrote “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which introduces readers to energy moguls who are said to have contributed to the climate change crisis, cautioned the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium crowd that if the world fails to try to combat climate change, sea level rise will erase some coastal cities like Miami from the map. Hurricanes, fueled by increasingly warmer waters because of global warming, will become more intense and harsher, and longer nor’easters will slam the the northeast, leaving death and destruction in their paths.

Some swaths of the world, including parts of the U.S., will eventually become uninhabitable because of blistering temperatures, Russell said, adding 2017 was the third hottest year ever recorded.

“I hope that what I talked about today was alarming, but not ultimately so devastating that you won’t do anything, because believe me, this is the most serious situation that humanity has faced,” Russell warned.

Russell applauded the city of Sarasota for acknowledging climate change and taking action to offset and prevent its devastating effects. Trump Administration policies, however, have been counter-intuitive, Russell said. The White House is seeking to cut more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency — an overall reduction of more than 23 percent.

No, Anna Maria Island beaches aren't going private in July

MANATEE – Bradenton's beaches aren't going private.

Because of efforts to control erosion, parts of Anna Maria Island that have been renourished aren't affected by a new state law.

Yet confusion has muddled the meaning of "Possession of Real Property," the new law that dictates how governments can establish customary use. In this case, if "an activity has continued for a long time without interruption," such as beach bums parking their chairs on dry sand, then there is legal standing for such an activity to continue, according to a memo from the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, "prohibits a governmental entity from adopting or keeping in effect an ordinance or rule establishing customary use of privately owned dry sand areas," the memo reads.

HUD sending additional $791 million to Florida for hurricane recovery

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will send $791 million to Florida through its Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program to help homes and buildings damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson made the announcement on Tuesday morning. HUD sent $616 million to Florida back in November to help hurricane recovery efforts.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” Carson said. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Most of the money, almost $633.5 million, will go to support “mitigation activities” which HUD describes as "actions taken to protect people and property from the predictable damage from future events and can include elevating homes, property buyouts, and hardening structures from wind and water." Almost $550 million of that is in response to disasters from 2017 with the remainder, almost $84 million, in response to disasters from 2016. More than $158 million has been set aside to restore homes, businesses and infrastructure that were damaged by the storms.

HUD will issue more guidelines on how the CDBG-DR Program funds will be spent in the coming weeks. The state will now craft a disaster recovery plan which will include recommendations with local and citizen input on how the funds will be spent.

City of North Port joins in the Wyland Foundation's Mayor's Water Conservation Challenge

As North Port celebrates Water Conservation Month this April, it will be joining cities all over the country asking residents to step up and commit to decreasing water use and reducing pollution by taking part in the annual Wyland National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation.

The North Port City Commission approved participation in the Mayor's Water Conservation Challenge, which runs April 1-30, at last Thursday’s meeting. The Mayor’s Water Conservation Challenge is a non-profit campaign presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota in association with EPA WaterSense, the Toro Company, National League of Cities, Conserva Irrigation and Earth Friendly Products, that challenges residents to reduce their water use and decrease pollution for a period of one year. Last year, 4,880 cities throughout the U.S. pledged to reduce fresh water consumption by 2.2 billion gallons and this year, Mayor Carusone wants to add North Port to join the effort and accept the challenge.

It takes less than five minutes to take the simple pledge at www.mywaterpledge.com and help make North Port a winning City. If North Port has the highest percentage of residents participate and take the pledge, all participants will be entered to win prizes like up to $5,000 for home utility payments, home improvement store gift cards, water saving irrigation equipment and many others, even a car to be awarded to a local non-profit charity.

Making a conscious effort to adopt simple water wise behaviors can have a big impact in saving not only water, but energy, money and valuable resources which affect our community's health, economy, and quality of life. Residents are asked to visit mywaterpledge.com and make their online pledge then spread the word to raise awareness and encourage others to step up and take the challenge.

Residents can contact Anna Duffey, Utilities Community Outreach Coordinator at 941-240-8003 or aduffey@cityofnorthport.com with any questions.

FSU Research: Urban growth leads to shorter, more intense wet seasons in Florida peninsula

New research from Florida State University scientists has found that urban areas throughout the Florida peninsula are experiencing shorter, increasingly intense wet seasons relative to underdeveloped or rural areas.

The study, published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, provides new insight into the question of land development's effect on seasonal climate processes.

Using a system that indexed urban land cover on a scale of one to four -- one being least urban and four being most urban -- the researchers mapped the relationship between land development and length of wet season.

"What we found is a trend of decreasing wet-season length in Florida's urban areas compared to its rural areas," said Vasu Misra, associate professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and lead investigator of the study.

According to Misra's research, changing land cover over the past 40 to 60 years has resulted in a decrease in wet-season length by 3.5 hours per year in Florida's most urban areas compared to its most rural areas.

However, the linear trends of seasonal rainfall accumulation over that same period were found to have remained relatively stable across Florida's diverse land cover regions.

Gov. Scott vetoes 'toilet-to-tap' bill

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Rick Scott sided with environmentalists Friday by vetoing a so-called "toilet to tap" bill that would have allowed treated wastewater to be pumped back into the state's groundwater.

With that pen stroke, Scott avoided the epithet "Governor Poopy Water," something environmentalists had vowed to call him if he let the bill become law.

"Protecting Florida's environment has been a top priority during my time as governor," Scott said in the veto letter. "Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way."

Scott hasn't always been popular with environmental groups, and the decision will head off criticism as he prepares a run for U.S. Senate.

A group calling itself Citizens Against Contaminated Aquifer Water, or CACA Water for short, canceled a news conference scheduled for Monday in a last-minute effort to persuade Scott to veto the bill.

"I am surprised by this, for sure, and pleasantly surprised by this, of course," said event organizer Brian Lee, who chairs the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District. "I hope that means he was listening to the people."

Several environmental groups urged people to call and email the governor's office in opposition to the bill. The Clean Water Network of Florida has used the slogan "Toilet to tap — let's flush it." That group and others used social media to promote the "Governor Poopy Water" nickname if Scott signed the legislation.

Proponents of the bill said that treated water injected into aquifers would have met federal drinking water standards and would have helped sustain water resources and supplies.

But opponents said federal water standards don't test for things such as pharmaceuticals, which could be spread through human waste.

Scott is expected to announce Monday that he'll challenge three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in this year's election.

2018 hurricane season expected to be an active one

While images of destruction caused by last year's battery of hurricanes are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, including those living on Puerto Rico where after six months power is not fully restored, forecasters are cautioning the public to brace themselves for another busy hurricane season.

Researchers at Colorado State University predict this will be a slightly above-average season, with 14 tropical storms in 2018. Seven are expected to become hurricanes, which have a wind speed of at least 74 mph. Three of those seven are expected to be major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, with winds reaching a minimum of 111 mph.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November.

"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted," researchers say.

By comparison, 2017 had a total of 17 named storms — with 10 becoming hurricanes and six of them major hurricanes — including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. But that number exceeded forecasters' expectations, including the team from CSU. The university had only anticipated 11 tropical storms with four becoming hurricanes.

Opinion: It’s time to reconsider cisterns

By Tom Palmer, published April 7th, 2018 in the Lakeland Ledger

The looming water supply problems in this part of Florida have revived some talk of an old idea: cisterns.

Cisterns have been used in various parts of the world for centuries.

In case you’re unfamiliar with cisterns, they are simply water-tight containers of various sizes that are used to collect and store rainwater for future use.

The concept was part of a discussion at the recent Polk County Water School that I attended to give local government officials and some other invited folks a chance to hear the latest about local water issues and solutions.

In the current terminology, cisterns could be viewed as another alternative water supply.

You may hear this term regularly if you’re following local water supply issues because the best research has determined that tapping the Floridan aquifer to supply all of our water needs is coming to an end.

That’s because continuing to pump increased quantities of water from the aquifer at the rate we have done in the past is unsustainable.

That’s where alternative water supplies come in.

This word about the approaching end of business-as-usual in the water supply world is coming out at the same time as a series of in-depth studies conducted in conjunction with a regional effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative. This initiative grew out of an earlier effort to forge a regional plan for supplying water and heading off the kind of water wars that raged in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to know the effect of unsustainable water pumping, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of lessons.

I recently received a 2010 report to the Florida Legislature from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that contained a map depicting a 50-year boundary for salt-water intrusion in the Floridan aquifer that extends to the outskirts of Brandon. It leaves you to wonder how close to Polk County the 100-year boundary will be.

Florida Aquarium tries to jump-start coral growth in Apollo Beach test

APOLLO BEACH – Under the water, on tiny tiles at the Florida Aquarium's Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, babies are growing.

"Baby corals from this past year's coral spawn in the Keys," explained coral biologist Rachel Seraphin. "These individuals are all staghorn coral, which is our main reef building coral for the Florida reef track."

The Florida Aquarium is having big success in coral reproduction. The team collected spawn during a dive in the Florida Keys back in August.

"We bring those bundles back to the lab where we break them apart, separate the sperm and the egg, fertilize the eggs, make sure the fertilization process has happened," continued Seraphin. "The importance of the sexual reproduction of corals is being able to diversify our genetic pool of corals so that they can battle disease, weather events, temperature swings -- high or low, or any other factors."

More than 100 of these baby corals have survived and flourished under this care. It's hope for the effort to strengthen coral reefs.

"Especially, the Florida reef track. About 98 percent has declined since the 80's," said Seraphin.

Some of that is caused by man, including land-based pollution like runoff. There's also the decline of sharks.

North Port Utilities begins 2018 meter conversion project

North Port Utilities is starting its 2018 Meter Conversion Project which will replace manual read meters with automatic meter read (AMR) meters. These meters will transmit data directly to meter reading equipment within the meter reader’s truck via radio transmitters, improving accuracy of information and safety for our meter readers. The City has hired National Metering Services, Inc. to replace over 1,500 manual read meters in our system.

Beginning April 9th, the National Metering Services team will be in LaCasa replacing meters in two sections. Other areas planned are in Harbor Cove, Harbor Isles, Pickwick Rd., and the W. Price Blvd. and N. Salford Blvd. area from Symco Ave. to Warrior Ave. Customers can view maps of the project areas at the link below.

Since the City’s water meters are located near the front property line in an easement, access to the home will not be necessary. However, National Metering Services staff will knock on the door to let the customer know that they are there and will be replacing the meter. The installers will have proper identification displayed and will be in National Metering Services vehicles with their logo prominently displayed. The meter replacement takes about 20 minutes to complete and customers can expect an interruption in their service while the work is being done. When the work has been completed, a door hanger notice will be left on the customer’s front door.

Please contact North Port Utilities with any questions or concerns at 941-240-8000.

Polluters are dumping into Florida waterways

Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Florida’s waterways 270 times over 21 months, the tenth worst total in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. However, the facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is releasing its Troubled Waters report as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Florida waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, both in Florida and across the country.

Dry conditions prompt Sarasota County recreational burn ban

SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County Fire Chief Michael Regnier has issued a countywide recreational burn ban effective immediately due to the dry weather conditions and an increased chance of wildfire.

In accordance with Sarasota County's open burning ordinance the mandatory burn ban will remain in effect until weather conditions change and the chance of wildfire decreases.

"The only exception to the ban is cooking fires used on outdoor grills. Residents are reminded to never leave a grill unattended while cooking and ensure the grill is in a safe location. Before disposing of coals, it is important to ensure that the coals are completely cooled," Regnier said.

Should a wildfire erupt, nearby residents are urged to follow the directions from authorities, which may include evacuations in localized areas. We ask all residents to stay vigilant during these dry conditions.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

New law Gov. Scott signed makes public access to beaches harder to establish

A bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last month has sent shock waves through Florida’s waterfront communities and prompted questions from confused beach residents and businesses. Experts say the law’s effect on beach access is not quite as dire as some people fear.

The bill, HB 163, blocks local governments from adopting ordinances to allow continuedpublic entry to privately owned beaches even when property owners may want to block off their land. Instead, any city or county that wants to do that has to get a judge’s approval first — by suing the private landowners.

The new law "is very bad for local governments," said Alison Fluornoy, a University of Florida law professor. "Suing coastal landowners as the only avenue to establish access is not an attractive option." She also pointed out that requiring a lawsuit means the Legislature put an added burden on the courts without offering any additional funding.

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, has left some people afraid it will immediately cut off public access to beaches all over the state. That’s not the case.

"We’ve been getting lots of calls from people confused about the issue, because it is so confusing," said Robin A. Sollie, executive director of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

Environmental groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Surfrider Foundation, as well as the Florida Association of Counties, strongly opposed the new law. But county association spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller said that, for now at least, only one Panhandle county is seeing an immediate impact.

While many of Florida’s prettiest beaches are part of the state park system, and thus guaranteed to be open to the public, the state estimates about 60 percent of Florida’s beach property is privately owned. Private ownership extends down to where the sand gets wet, also known as the mean high water line, which is public.

In many areas where beaches are privately owned, tourists and even local residents frequently wander over and set up their chairs, collect sea shells and build sand castles.

Florida waters continue to be hit with red tide. Millions added to combat blooms

Red tide blooms have hit Southwest Florida hard in recent weeks.

The toxic algae causes fish kills, respiratory issues and contributes to several dozen manatee deaths each year.

That’s why U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, says he sponsored legislation that will add $8 million to combat the blooms.

Buchanan’s measure was passed by Congress as part of a government funding bill.

“Data is king”: Analysis confirms projections of sea level rise models

No more computer models or projections. Finally – concrete data.

A scientific paper published in February may pave the way for a new conversation about rising sea levels using data instead of projections.

Gary Mitchum, co-author of the paper and Associate Dean at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, says the research is more than just another explanation of the effects of global climate change.

“In science, data is king,” Mitchum said. “I’ve been telling people I think it’s a game-changer in that the discussion can now switch from is this just an error in the models, the computer models, or is it really in the data?’’

The paper immediately received international attention and went viral within the scientific community.

The team of researchers began compiling data in 1993. They released the statistics from satellite altimetry, the measurement of height or altitude from a satellite.

“We’re hoping that what this is going to do is allow people to stop worrying about the fact that it’s only the models seeing it, that we actually see it in the data now too and we can have a conversation about what we need to be doing,” Mitchum said.

Using data from 25 years of observation, researchers concluded that previous projections by computer models were accurate with 99 percent confidence. The global average sea level rose about 3 millimeters per year.

Now, the scientific community has recorded data that confirms these research methods.

Budget bill includes money for red tide

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office touted the inclusion of $8 million in the latest federal budget bill to combat red tide outbreaks like the one that has lingered off the coast of Southwest Florida.

“Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” Buchanan said, adding that legislation he promoted will allow for greater research with the goal of reducing the problem. “We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.”

Harmful algae blooms cause $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the United States, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Buchanan’s measure on harmful algal bloom funding was included in an appropriations bill that funds the federal government through September 2018, his office said in a news release. The funding bill, which averted another government shutdown, was signed by President Donald Trump Friday afternoon after he had earlier threatened to veto it.

Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said in the release that the funding will “significantly bolster the scientific community’s research to detect, respond to and develop innovative technologies to lessen the impacts from some of the country’s most challenging harmful algal blooms — red tide — on our environment, marine life and human health.”

April CHNEP Volunteer event to focus on horseshoe crabs

April’s Volunteer Event: "All About Horseshoe Crabs"

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program to collect information on breeding and monitor populations in our state. Join us to learn about this amazing creature and help with the statewide tracking of them at the April CHNEP Volunteer event:

Saturday, April 28th from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Cedar Point Environmental Center
2300 Placida Rd, Englewood, FL 34224

As part of the Horseshoe Crab Watch, we will be learning about horseshoe crabs, their importance to the marine environment, and even to human health. We will then conduct a site survey to document breeding pairs and juveniles present. Volunteers who are trained and interested can continue to participate in surveying during the Spring (March-April) and Fall (September-October) months.

If you plan to join us, please RSVP. If you are not currently signed up as a CHNEP Volunteer and wish to participate in this event or future events, then please go to www.chnep.org/get-involved to do so ahead of time. For more information, please contact CHNEP Research & Outreach Specialist Sierra Strickland

Charlotte County implements burn ban amid drought, fire danger

PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte County commissioners passed an emergency ordinance on Tuesday banning outdoor burning (including yard waste and recreational fires) and the private use and discharge of fireworks and sparklers. This prohibition does not affect attended barbecue/cooking equipment or burn permits issued by the Florida Forest Service.

Charlotte County is experiencing a severe drought and the county’s Fire Danger Index rating has reached four out of five on multiple days in recent weeks. The ban will remain in effect until the threat of wildfires no longer exists and the board terminates the state of local emergency.

Salmon farming in Florida? It's a possibility.

What was once a sprawling tomato field near Homestead is being turned over in stages for a new crop: Atlantic salmon.

Yes, you read that right. Salmon, fresh from Florida, the land of palm trees and gators.

Turns out the cold-water, protein-rich fish are well-suited for an innovative approach to salmon farming in the tropics, and southern Florida offers the ideal geological structure for this endeavor in aquaculture: the world’s largest land-raised salmon farm.

“Up to now, what has been holding up salmon from growing and feeding the world is that it has been stuck at the ends of the Earth and has be to be flown around. We’re changing that,” said José Prado, chief financial officer of Atlantic Sapphire, the Norwegian company that is constructing a $130-million, 380,000-square-foot facility to hatch, grow and process salmon — all on land. “We call it world-class local.”